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Three Poems by Alonso Llerena

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

NOTES FROM MY NEW COUNTRY

After Suji Kwock Kim


The travelers

are tragically far north

dispossessed of home.

They dig

future graves with hands

that prayed

within chromatic crystal walls.

Sunlit

their foreign prayers

beg,

change our

places in the fire.

Unheard,

in a country silenced

by sin smoke.

Incendiary rendition

snuffs out light hidden

in immigrant throats,

the language ash

dried as salt

on roads

body maps

torn. Gracias, I plead

together, we can breathe

together, we can dress

this home, our wound.

Thank you, te ruego

so our children

and our ghosts

may speak.




READING VARELA AT ROCK CREEK PARK


Cherry blossoms surround a tamarack hide under my pride swamp.

I understand the creek is wider this time of year as the hours lose their watch


I step towards the creek, take a step back, a necessary shuffling

for my reflection to break the creek’s concentration


This park is my favorite place to hide, from responsibilities, my desires, and the old grief of my red house.

Here I thought my skin could be ironbark, a hide within my hide.


Blanca Varela lived near here for three short years, just two miles west

from where I rolled a spliff on her Rough Song. Canto Villano suena mejor


Her celestial words fed my poverty built on car bombs

her raven murdered house so far, so far from where I first heard her cantar


This park is my favorite place to cry. When I was forced to resign,

I rushed here to the same rock where I cried my best friend’s death.


Students, It was not your fault or mine. I am sorry I never said goodbye.


Though the walls contained us, I could no longer teach you,

math stray from the music we cannot see again


An obsession with art overcomes a classroom-bound man


All I can tell you now is when I have a Peruvian book in hand

the dogs come back; they overflow the page


They feast, they are a carcass, a caress, a savant, they hang from lamp posts

their bodies feed the crabs of Callao, they become cardboard color ghosts


I truly hope heaven is not mute


Blanca admired Kafka. She reigned over the page and gifted him a poem, No date.

all I can tell you now is I loved my students just like that.




FIELD TRIP II

After Vuillard


Obsessions drive hands-on canvas

over pens, across bodies

my eyes into the person

contained within the frame

measure for measure

less than a foot squared

I know a seamstress who lives here


Carefree is her affection

her hands precise on textile

The pink of the window interrupts

the patterns that create depth for the seamstress.

as she lifts a dress I press my face to my page

where I wrote her name, I close my eyes and feel her here


Grandmother,

What is it about craft that binds your hands to mine?

oil sings the tune of the sewing machine

we could not afford for you in our early years away from home.




Alonso Llerena is a Peruvian writer, visual artist, and educator. He has earned an MFA from Bard: Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, FENCE, the Offing, and elsewhere. His manuscript in progress, La Casa Roja, was a finalist for the National Poetry Series 2022.


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